Solstitum

 

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The Waste

The blade was not sharp. Once upon a time, long long ago, the serrated edge of the blade may have been able to gut a man like a fish. But now it was dull, cracked with years of use, scarred with rust and age. 

 

The blade came down with a heavy thud, digging in to the flesh of a rabbit that had been caught in a small trap the night before. A flurry of dust was whipped through the air, and the scav bundled themselves down into their thin deerskin jacket as best they could. She tugged the blade free of the flesh before striking it down once more, desperately trying to sever the leg that had been caught before the hunters came back to find them tampering with their prey. That was an offense punishable by death in this Meg.

 

A third heavy chop and the broken cartilage that was holding the dead animal together was finally beginning to give way under her assault. She stopped hacking. A whisper on the breeze. Footsteps drawing closer. She chopped down again, but the rabbit leg was still holding fast. The scav bit out a short curse under her breath, jammed the blade back into her boot holster, and scampered away. 

 

The girl ducked into a rusted hulk, a remnant of the old world. Its four doors and seats were long gone, harvested by scavs and the man up top. But all hulks had a little area for people small enough to nestle down into, and that was what she did. 

 

"Yah fink we'll pull anyfing today then?" She heard the voice before she saw the flickering of the lantern, casting the deep shadows of two men across the walls. She hunkered down even deeper into the hulk, desperately trying to make herself as small as possible. 

 

"We betta'," the second man said, "Ain't 'ad nuffin good to munch for days." 

 

There was a heavy thud as one of the men placed the lantern on top of the hulk. The two men walked in front of the hastily occupied shelter, one was broad shouldered and wore only a vest over his torso, a pot belly sticking out against the thin material of the shirt. The other was lithe and wore a long coat with a big collar shrouding his face from view, perfect for the cold nights and dust storms of the city. 

 

"You seein' what I'm seein' Able," The slim man said as he crouched down by the dead rabbit and lifted its leg for a better look. 

 

"Yeah, looks like somefing's been tryin' to take a lil' nibble of our grub," The fat one, Able, replied. 

 

"Nah you moron," The thin one snapped. He wrenched the trap open and waved the rabbits leg underneath Able's small, piggy eyes. "Thas' clearly a cut by a knife righ' there. Ain't somefing tryin' to take a lil' nibble, is someone tryin' to take the whole fing!" 

 

Able blinked at that, he couldn't focus on the rabbits leg when it was being thrown around under his eyes like that so he grabbed onto his friends arm and held it still. 

 

"You're right Dag, them's knife marks! Some dirty little scav's been tryin' to get at our grub!" Able yelled. "Say, yah don't fink they might still be about, do yah?" 

 

Dag slung the rabbit into one of his coats deep pockets and brought a hand up to his chin. "Well, they could be, yeah... They didn't manage to scarper with the grub, so they likely got spooked by an animal or spooked by us."

 

"Well we didn' see no one, an we didn' hear no one either, so if they were spooked by us, then they're probably still about, right?" Able gave a toothy grin at his friend. "If we can get em' we could take em' up to Dryden, he always pays us good for a new scav." 

 

Dag nodded, patted his coat pocket to be certain the Rabbit was still there, and then flicked his wrist to reveal a small, hidden blade. There was likely a scav nearby, and if he could get them up to Dryden in the tower then he would be paid well for his efforts, Dryden always appreciated a new toy to break down and play with. 

 

"They's probably hidin' in one of these hulks about here," Dag said, "Lot's of lil' nooks and crannies for a lil' scav to tuck 'emselves away into." 

 

Inside the hulk the girl shrank back even further, she pushed herself into the metal until she felt like she would break straight through it, and slipped a hand over her mouth to stop herself from screaming, while the other clutched at her useless, rusted blade. 

 

She knew who Dryden was. Everyone who lived in The Old Smoke knew who Dryden was. He sat up in the big, old rickety tower by the river, looking over all of the city. He didn't own all of it, that would be crazy, no one could own a whole city. But he did own the main bit, as far as the eye could see. He was the king at the top of the tower, and everyone obeyed his every command. Well, they did when his enforcers were nearby anyway. 

 

Able slammed a hand down on the roof of the hulk she was hiding in. "Dag, there's loads of these hulks here, how we gonna look through 'em all?" 

 

"We don't 'ave to look through 'em all yah dummy," Dag said, "scavs is dumb remember, they probably hopped right into the closest hulk." 

 

Before she knew what was happening she was grabbed by two, big, meaty hands and forcefully yanked out of the hulk. She didn't even have time to swing her blade before it was plucked out of her hand and tossed aside. 

 

The girl was a small, feeble creature, no more than 10 years old, and she looked like a toy in Able's grasp. She was thin and her hair was wispy, you could see the bones of her ribs through her tattered clothes. She was surviving, barely, but the wastes of The Big Smoke had clearly not been kind to her. 

 

"Wells then, what do we have 'ere," Dag grinned, "Some dirty lil' Scav tryin' to make off wiv' our grub is what it looks like, don't it Able." 

 

"That it does Dag, that it does," Able replied as he firmly held the squirming girl up above the ground. 

 

"What is it we do to squirmin' Scavs, Able?" 

 

"Well, we take em' to Dryden so we can get even more grub!" 

 

"Thas' right Able, we do, and thas' exactly where this little one is goin." 

 

Before she could even scream Dag jabbed her arm with the blade in his hand, and she was rendered silent by its powerful drug laced edge. 

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